Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats


COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE
convince any considerable body of professional mathematicians
that symbolic logic might be worth their serious attention. One
staunch hater of symbolic logic may be mentioned - Cantor,
whose work on the infinite will be noticed in the concluding
chapter. By one of those little ironies which make mathematical
history such amusing reading for the open-minded, symbolic
logic was to play an important part in the drastic criticism of
Cantor's work that caused its author to lose faith hi himself and
his theory.
Boole did not long survive the production of his masterpiece.
The year after its publication, still subconsciously striving for
the social respectability that he once thought a knowledge of
Greek could confer, he married Mary Everest, niece of the Pro-
fessor of Greek in Queen's College. His wife became his devoted
disciple. After her husband's death, Mary Boole applied some
of the ideas which she had acquired from him to rationalizing
and humanizing the education of young children. In her pamph-
let. Book's Psychology, Mary Boole records an interesting
speculation of Boole's which readers of The Laws of Thought
will recognize as hi keeping with the unexpressed but implied
personal philosophy in certain sections. Boole told his wife that
hi 1832, when he was about seventeen, it 'flashed upon' him as
he was walking across a field that besides the knowledge gained
from direct observation, man derives knowledge from some
source undefinable and invisible - which Mary Boole calls 'the
unconscious'. It will be interesting (in a later chapter) to hear
Poincare expressing a similar opinion regarding the genesis of
mathematical 'inspirations' in the 'subconscious mind*. Any-
how, Boole was inspired, if ever a mortal was, when he wrote
The Law of Thought.
Boole died, honoured and with a fast-growing fame, on
8 December 1864, in the fiftieth year of his age. His premature
death was due to pneumonia contracted after faithfully keeping
a lecture engagement when he was soaked to the skin. He fully
realized that he had done great work.